S/SGT George J. Le Comte
B-24 Tail Gunner, 8th and 15th Air Forces
KIA 11 December 1945
over Vienna, Austria
-- Kathy Le Comte Lupton --
My grandfather, George John Le Comte, was born 31 July 1921, in Chicago, Ill., the third child and only son of immigrant parents. Because he had some health problems as a
child, he spent a lot of time in bed. That is how he picked up the hobbies of collecting stamps and coins.
George attended grade school in Chicago and was a member of St. Gertrude's Catholic Church. His family moved to the northwest suburb of Des Plaines where George graduated
from Maine Township High School. His senior year he met Mary Elizabeth Kuhl, a junior, at the Prince Castle restaurant, where she worked. They were married in Chicago.
George registered for the draft in February, 1942. Their only child, George Jr., was born in Chicago that July. In November, George Sr. reported for service at Camp Grant,
Illinois. While my grandfather was in the service my grandmother and father moved in with her father-in-law, along with my grandmother's parents.
PFC Le Comte received a year's worth of Army Air Force ordnance training at several locations - Miami Beach, Fla.; Newport, R.I.; Greenville, S.C.; Tallahassee; Fla. and Santa
Anita, Calif. - before being shipped overseas. In December, 1943 he arrived at his first air base near Old Buckenham, England, with the 8th Air Force. He was assigned to the
1792nd ordnance company. His letters to my grandmother mostly mentioned matters going on at home and how much he liked receiving packages of food. In April, 1944, he was
transferred from ordnance into the 453rd Bomb Group/733rd Squadron at the same air base and trained to become an aerial gunner. He probably wanted to see some action, as
well as get more pay. He flew at least three missions over Germany. Of note is that James Stewart of film fame was the Group Executive Officer for the 453rd while PFC
Le Comte was with the unit.
In August 1944, PFC Le Comte received the unusual promotion to Staff Sergeant - a jump of two grades. Then in late October he received a rare transfer of not only t' a new
unit, but also to a new theater of operation. While air crew casualty rates were high in England, they were even higher in Italy. The 15th Air Force in Italy couldn’t wait
for replacement crews to arrive from the United States, so some men were transferred from the 8th Air Force in England. S/SGT Le Comte arrived in Italy in mid-November and
in early December he was assigned to the 465th Bomb Group/780th Squadron stationed at Pantanella Airfield, as a replacement gunner.
On 11 December 1944, S/SGT Le Comte was the tail gunner aboard a B-24 heavy bomber nicknamed the “Mission Belle,” piloted by Lt. Vern Larson and Lt. Gus Calabrese. The target
that day was oil refineries near Vienna, Austria. From what surviving crew members and other airmen on that mission have stated, there was heavy flak over the target and the
plane took a direct hit through the mid section and flight deck, knocking out the hydraulics and instantly killing co-pilot Lt. Calabrese. The plane fell out of formation
and went into a spin. Five of the crew escaped and became POW's, including an 11th crew member who was a radio interpreter. The others, including S/SGT Le Comte, did not
parachute out. This was his first mission with his new unit and crew.
It took almost six years to locate, identify, and return S/SGT Le Comte's remains to his family. He was buried in 1950 at Rock Island National Cemetery in northwestern
Illinois. He left behind his 20-year-old wife, 2-1/2 year old son, father and two sisters. His widow has never remarried and his son, my father, died in January 2004.
I started researching my grandfather's war service in 1992, and joined AWON in 1998. With AWON's help I have found my grandfather's official service records, and have
learned what it was and is like for my grandmother to be a WWII widow, and my father a WWII orphan. AWON is indispensable to anyone researching someone who served and was
killed in WWII.